Monday, October 31, 2011


A lot of kids love Halloween. They love the candy but some of them actually love being scared. As adults, looking at and living life, fear becomes ... well, something to fear. We have legitimate fears borne out of concerns and consequences, but sometimes we take it too far.

It makes sense to fear a dark alley in a bad neighborhood late at night. It makes sense to fear the repercussions of your boss when you find out the work you submitted was not the work he was looking for. Of course, it makes sense to fear for your kids and their well-being.

Yet, when we fear what others think, when we fear what might happen when the happening in question is way out of the realm of possibility, when we fear what we don't know just because we don't know it, we need to adopt a more fearless, dare I say, child-like approach.

In my early 20's I moved across the country to a city I'd never visited before. In a month, I managed to find work and an apartment. Over the next few months, I managed to make a few friends. About 6 months in, I was miserable. I hated it there. The job I took was supposed to be temporary until I found something else, but I wasn't finding anything. I wasn't close to any family, I wasn't making enough to afford a trip home, and my two new friends were planning moves back East. So after 9 months, I moved back.

Shortly after my arrival, an uncle told me that he and the rest of the family were disappointed because I didn't try hard enough. I asked him how long I would have had to stay there miserable before he would have felt better? I looked my fear of the unknown directly in the eye and stared him down. I had no regrets and I wasn't going to let his regrets hold me back.

I know people who avoid relationships, stay in relationships, and who refuse to even look for a job when there current job is making them miserable, because they fear what the unknown will look like. In there eyes, a little unhappiness beats the fear of stepping into the unknown.

Fear doesn't have to be enjoyed or reveled in, but it does need to be kept in perspective. Courage isn't moving forward with the lack of fear, it's moving forward in spite of it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Take a Technology Fast

Cell phones, email, text messaging, status updates, tweeting, for many of us, from the moment we awake until we go to sleep, we are ‘connected’. On an episode of Dr. Phil, one woman was so addicted to texting that she stopped in the middle of intimate relations with her husband to read and respond to a text. Don’t even get me started on all of the near-miss accidents I have had because someone couldn’t be bothered to look away from the phone and actually watch the road! It’s getting to be a little much.

These technological wonders have become a part of our lives, mostly for the better, but still, our dependence is a little bit scary. So many churches and other organizations have started what they call technology fasts. The most practical ones for me are evening fasts. If you need emails and cell phones for work or to track the kids down, that’s one thing.

Yet the idea of an evening fast intrigued me. An evening fast starts when you get home from work, and ends the next morning. For those hours, there is no:
  • Television
  • Internet
  • Phone usage (land line or cell)
  • Texting
  • Video Games
  • GPS Systems
For an evening, you are technologically free. You can read. You can meditate. You can talk to your family members. You can take a walk. You can play with the kids. You can write in a journal. You can paint, sing, draw … but you can’t utilize technology.

Of course this does take some planning. You won’t want to do it when you have a project due or a test scheduled for the next day, but you do want to find some time to do it.

I did it for several days during a recent vacation. I found it to be liberating and calming. Perfect for a vacation! Yet, I decided to do it one evening a week when I returned home – that has proved a little more challenging.

Try it just for one evening and let me know how it goes.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Get It Together Girl!: It's About Time!

Boy have I been busy!

The second workbook in my Get It Together Girl series is now available on Amazon Kindle! The paperback will be available next month. Get It Together Girl!: It’s about Time: Finding It, Saving It and Making the Most of It is filled with time-saving tips that can help you tame the time monster.

It’s about Time was inspired by a conversation I’d had with a frazzled blogger regarding my first Get It Together workbook. She boasted that she didn’t have 15 minutes a day or even five minutes for that matter. The conversation stuck with me for a while and eventually, Get It Together Girl!: It’s about Time was born. Over a two-week period, I give daily tips on saving time. In the Extra Stuff appendix, I offer additional tips as well as websites and phone apps that can be helpful in saving time and being more efficient.

The GITG series is designed to help women (and men too) lose the excuses that stand between them, their dreams and the lives they want to lead. I’ve learned it is the little things that often stand in the way. If they were only more organized, had more time, access to more money or clearer goals, they could do more. So each Get It Together Girl workbook tackles one of these excuses in a way that is easy to read and just as simple to put into practice.

With the Get It Together Girl concept, I want readers to do more and read less. The workbooks are short, quick (and hopefully fun). And, when I say workbooks, I do mean work books. The idea is to work them and put the concepts in action .. not just read about them and mull them over.

My first workbook Get It Together Girl!: A 28-Day Guide to Practical NOT Perfect Home Organization is still available via Kindle and, as of this weekend, also available through Amazon in paperback. It focuses on home organization because a home that runs more smoothly saves time and reduces stress. Each weekday for four weeks, readers are given a 15 minute assignments to help them reduce clutter, increase organization and establish some realistic routines.

More Get It Together Girl workbooks are forthcoming. Hopefully, by year end, book three will be available. Just in time for the New Year, this one focuses on goal-setting. All of the books are affordable. If you have a Kindle, you can get both books electronically for $1.99. They are also available in paperback for just $6.99.

So, if you need to get yourself together, here’s your chance!

Monday, October 17, 2011

What Would You Do?

I was thinking the other day about what I'd do if I won a ridiculous amount of money in the lottery. What would I do if I won $200 million dolllars?

Of course, I'd pay off my bills. I'd give a big chunk to my dad and pay for my sister's education. I would help all of my friends who are struggling. I'd pay off my house but I wouldn't get a new one. I love my house. It's perfect for me, so I think I'd stay. I also love my little Mazda 6. I don't need a BMW or a Lexus; but, I think I'd get the new Mazda 6 fully loaded.

But beyond those basic things, I'd need to do something everyday. Of course I'd travel, but I don't think I'd want to travel all of the time. I'd want to be productive and do something, for others and for myself.

For others, I'd give to my favorite charities and I'd also give back some more. I've had a dream of starting my own mentoring program and college fund for kids in the middle, the ones who everyone ignores. We pay a lot of attention to the gifted students and we make a ton of efforts to help those who are in trouble and at-risk, but what about the ones in the middle? What about the C students who go to school everyday, avoid trouble and just want a decent life? I'd do something for them.

For myself, I would also take this opportunity to learn. I would take culinary and photography classes. I'd become the photographer I've always wanted to be. I'd take the fun I have in the kitchen to a whole new level. I'd also be free to write and not have to worry about making a living.

So the question I asked at the end of this protracted daydream is why not start creating that life now? Heck, I don't even play the lotto, so how can I win it? LOL!

Maybe I can't pay off the house or start a new foundation or travel the world. But I can make do more volunteering. I can make more of an effort to study my photography and get out more and shoot. I can enroll in a cooking class or even buy a few cookbooks that can start to take me from novice to accomplished home cook.

The life we want doesn't need to be relegated to flights of fancy and daydreams. We can start right now, right where we are and all of our lives will be better for it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Journey of the Little Steps

At the beginning of the year, I decided I was going to read the Bible, the whole thing, from Genesis to Revelation, all 66 books. I found a reading plan and on January 1st, I started.

During the first two months, I felt as if I was never going to get through as I flipped to the first few pages of the Old Testament and the first few pages of the New.

After a few months, I realized that reading just a few pages a day, was really making a difference. Now that the last quarter of the year is upon us, I can see a ton of progress. The end is in sight! This is one goal I set for 2011 that I will definitely make!

Little things do add up to a lot. It didn't seem like it was going to be enough at the beginning but I stuck with it and wow! Looking back, I wish I had been more diligent with the weight loss and the savings. I got impatient with the slow progress and I struggled on both fronts.

However, I am going to use this Bible reading experience as a testament (pun intended) to what chipping away, day-by-day can do. Those little efforts have yielded a huge result!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Words of Wisdom

As one of the few people in the country who do not own an Apple product, I still recognize the loss of a titan, Steve Jobs, who changed the way we live from computers to music and even movies. In 2005, he gave the commencement speech at Standord University. It's long for a blog post but very much worth the time it takes to read it. And who knows, there could be an iPad or IPod in my future!

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course."

My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out.

What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating. I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Another interesting component to my vacation in Edisto was historical. There is tons of history on the island, to be sure; but there is a strong possibility that there is personal history for me as well. According to my family, my grandfather Jesse Beach moved to Georgia from the South Carolina coast. He was allegedly of Gullah heritage. For those who aren't familiar, Gullah people are African-Americans who hail from the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia who have maintained a unique culture and language. The Gullah language is a mixture of English, Portuguese, several African languages.

While I was there, I found from several locals that there were a number of Beaches in the area (not sandy beaches but people with my last name of Beach! LOL!). I plan on going back and looking specifically for my distant relatives. So as I toured of the island, I was especially interested in the history of the area as it very well could be my history.

Our tour guide (who could trace his family roots on the island back to the 1600s) knew a little Gullah. One word that stuck with me was the Gullah word for morning. They call it dayclean. What a poetic and accurate way to describe the morning.

Dayclean. Each day is a new day. We begin with anew. Dayclean to me means leaving aside yesterday - good, bad or indifferent - and embracing each day as a new day, a fresh start, a clean slate.

What a wonderful way to view the day. Yesterday is over. Tomorrow isn't here. We have today and we start each day fresh and clean.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Practicing What I Preach

I write a lot about taking time for self. Yet, it is not enough to talk a good game, I also try to live it. It would be hypocritical of me if I didn't at least try to put my words into practice.

I've known for a while I needed a real break and a staycation wasn't an option. Since I blog and write at home, my home, although I love it, is actually Workplace #2 for me. Once I got the time off from Workplace #1, I knew I'd have to leave to really get the rest and relaxation I needed. Fortunately for me, my dad has a time share and I was able to get away for a week for next to nothing.

I went to Edisto Island, South Carolina, right on the coast. There are no major attractions. There was no nightlife, just a nice beach and some historical plantations and history on the island. For me, it was perfect. I spent my days on the screened in porch journaling and reading. I had daily walks on the beach. I slept in. I ate great seafood. It was restorative and peaceful. It was exactly what I needed.

Now that I'm back, my challenge is to figure out how to keep my stress level from careening to the heights it climbed to before I left.  
  • Appreciate the quiet. I found that I wasn't using the television or radio as background noise. I journaled and read in complete silence. It was nice.
  • Stop rushing. The pace on the island was a lot slower. It tookdo's. I might even try to leave for work a few minutes earlier.
  • Decompress on a daily basis. At the end of the day, I would treat myself to a long bath. I do this at home too and it does make a difference.
  • Let it go. I realized, as I had a lot of time to walk and think, that I carry a lot of stuff with me that I don't need to carry: workplace woes, other people's drama, things I make into a big deal that really aren't. The most important thing I need to learn to do is let those things go. To paraphrase the Serenity Prayer: I need to change what I can, let go of what I can't and have the wisdomto know the difference.
A few days away can make all of the difference. I was a believer before and I'm still a believer now!